Key’s role isn’t unlike what David Lange’s role was – to be the palatable face of the government’s free-market agenda. His role is to be nice, just as Lange’s role was to be the lovable raconteur, the engaging comic, the avuncular Methodist defender of the welfare state. Nice, warm, not scary.
Key is and Lange was the frontman. Whether Lange knew it when he was first chosen as leader is open to question. I doubt that Key is so naïve.
I doubt that Key is either as naïve or as easily bullied as Lange, but there are some uncanny similarities between the Lange/Douglas show and the Key/English show. And that will eventually spell trouble for Key and the National government. Trouble with a capital T.
I’m not convinced. For his first term as Prime Minister Lange was (weirdly) also the Foreign Minister; he was out of the country for most of the time and appears to have played little significant role in the financial and economic decisions made by his Finance Minister or the rest of his cabinet. I also doubt that he understood he was effectively leading a radical neo-liberal revolution until his second term (legend has it he began to have reservations when he saw that Labour almost won Remuera).
Key controls and leads his party to a much greater extent than Lange ever did, even if he hasn’t risen to the standards of micro-management set by Clark.He might be an effective frontman but he’s also a lot more.
Edwards also writes:
If I were Phil Goff, I wouldn’t be too worried about this. I’d be biding my time. After a while, people really start to take notice of the U-turns, to weary of the distractions, to see past the frontman to the real show that’s going on behind the scenes.
This is a recurring theme on Red Alert and The Standard as well. Just the other day Clare Curran wrote:
At some point, the rainbow coloured glasses will slip and people will wake up to the fact that the National Government doesn’t practice what it preaches.
Sooner or later the people will ‘wake up’ and realise that National are intrinsically evil and beg for Labour to rescue them! This prediction might even come true in 9-12 years, but opposition parties need to be a little more proactive than that. The other day Steve Benen at Washington Monthly published an email from Republican Party strategist Bruce Bartlett, who wrote:
I believe that political parties should do penance for their mistakes and just losing power is not enough. Part of that involves understanding why those mistakes were made and how to prevent them from happening again. Republicans, however, have done no penance. They just pretend that they did nothing wrong. But until they do penance they don’t deserve any credibility and should be ignored until they do. That’s what my attacks on Bush are all about. I want Republicans to admit they were wrong about him, accept blame for his mistakes, and take some meaningful action to keep them from happening again
Key understood this: his first year as leader was all about ‘swallowing dead rats’, inoculating his party against all the traditional attacks Labour employed against him, removing all the negative impressions that people had about the National Party. Goff needs to inoculate his party against the ‘Nanny State’ label they’ve been smeared with. That’s his penance – but it’s also a great way for a new leader to raise their profile. I don’t understand why he hasn’t done this.